Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

The Heart of Zen

Nov 17, 2023 – Dec 31, 2023
Osher Foundation Gallery

Discover the delicate brushwork and profound simplicity of two still life ink paintings that have been treasured at a Zen Buddhist temple for centuries.


Included with General Admission ticket.

Please note that the two paintings Six Persimmons and Chestnuts will be displayed individually, one at a time, for only three weeks each. Six Persimmons will be displayed Nov. 17–Dec. 10, while Chestnuts will be displayed Dec. 8–Dec. 31. Both works will be briefly on view together Dec. 8–Dec. 10. Space is limited, and entry into this special exhibition is on a first come, first serve basis.

The Heart of Zen features two extraordinary ink paintings, Persimmons (popularly known as Six Persimmons) and Chestnuts, on view in the United States for the first time. Attributed to the 13th-century monk Muqi, these exquisitely subtle compositions were painted in China and then crossed the ocean to Japan, where they have been designated Important Cultural Properties and treasured for centuries at Daitokuji Ryokoin Zen temple in Kyoto. Thanks to a joint effort by Ryokoin and the Asian Art Museum, this exhibition offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view these two works in an intimate setting, as well as providing a rare glimpse into the world of a Japanese Zen temple. The Heart of Zen explores the history and significance of these paintings, their place in temple life, and their eventual elevation as classic examples of Zen art in the United States. In conjunction with the exhibition, sessions of zazen meditation will be offered as a means of cultivating a state of peaceful awareness.

While each of the museum’s exhibitions of internationally loaned work is intended to promote international peace and cross-cultural understanding, The Heart of Zen also has a uniquely personal dimension. The exhibition was conceived when Ryokoin temple abbot Kobori Geppo visited the Asian Art Museum in 2017. After experiencing a deep sense of compassion for San Francisco’s underserved populations, the abbot decided to foster peace and harmony by sharing this pair of exceptional paintings with the city. Thanks to his generous gesture, visitors to the exhibition may discover a moment of peace to take with them as they face the tribulations of daily life.


Image: Persimmons, 13th century, attributed to Muqi (Chinese, active mid to late 13th century). China; Southern Song Dynasty. Ink on paper. Lent by Ryokoin Temple. Photo by Okada Ai, courtesy of the Kyoto National Museum.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do I need to reserve a ticket in advance to view The Heart of Zen

No, advance tickets are not required. Entry to the exhibition in Osher Gallery will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis for all ticket holders. The paintings are on view in a gallery alcove with limited capacity, so guests may need to wait briefly to view the artworks.  

For access to every exhibition on view during your visit, we recommend reserving tickets to Murakami: Monsterized (not included in general admission). However, only a general admission ticket is needed to see The Heart of Zen

Do members have priority access to The Heart of Zen?  

Members enjoy exclusive viewing hours on the following: 

    • Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023 
      The Heart of Zen Member-Only Exhibition Viewing, 9–10 AM
      Member Bell-Ringing, 10:30 AM, Samsung Hall 

How long can I stay in the exhibition? 

There are no time limits to visiting the exhibition, but at times of peak capacity, guests may be encouraged to exit the alcove housing the paintings to allow others a chance to view the artworks. 

Organizers & Sponsors

The Heart of Zen is organized by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in partnership with Daitokuji Ryokoin Temple and with assistance from the Kyoto National Museum. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Presentation is made possible with the generous support of Barbara Bass Bakar, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Fred Eychaner Fund, and the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation. Additional support is provided by Kathy Bissinger, Glen S. and Sakie T. Fukushima, Marsha S. Handley, Lore Harp McGovern, John S. Osterweis, The Japan Foundation, and Michael and Ginger Hu. Public programs for this exhibition are supported by Target. 

Sustained support generously provided by the Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Endowment Fund for Exhibitions.